Photo: Jasmin Gritzka /
Faces like carnival masks

Rainbow Love- Parade in Paris

The Boulevard Henry IV leading to the Place de la Bastille reverberates with the sound of music and dancing. House music with hard beats comes out of the huge speakers on the parade cars. People are dancing as if in a trance – some because of too much alcohol, some because of the burning heat. They are dancing absolutely everywhere: on colourful carneval floats, on balconies, in the middle of the street. Everyone is waiting for the same thing: the approaching Gay Pride parade!

Some distance away from the crowd, three young women are absorbed in conversation despite the shouting and singing around them. They are talking in French; two of them have a slight German accent. The youngest of the three, one of the German girls, turns away from her two friends when the parade approaches. With vivid interest and great curiosity, she observes a group of men walking down the street wiggling their hips vigorously. They are followed by a group of half naked, cheering women. The men are all wearing tight sequin skirts and immense high-heels in the most garish colours: pink, red, yellow…The tons of make-up and their enormous wigs make their faces look like carnival masks.

The other two girls continue their discussion. Gesturing towards her, the older German girl says to her French friend jokingly: “Well, she at least has an excuse for not having been to a gay pride parade yet, as she’s straight. But you don't have any excuse at all.” The French girl only smiles and laughs. The younger German girl joins the conversation again: “I would never have expected it to be like this. But I don’t understand it … I get the impression that they are making fun of their own homosexuality by wiggling their hips like that. It doesn’t really make sense to me…” The other German girl shakes her head in a friendly way: “If they feel like shaking their hips and wearing those clothes, why shouldn’t they do it today, the day they can be the people they really are.” In the meantime, an Iranian boy has joined the group of girls. One of the girls asks him how he dealt with his homosexuality in his home country: “Today, I find it hard to believe that I was once arrested by the police simply because I am who I am.” Smiling, he turns away from the girls and starts dancing.

Does a “carnival” work as a political demonstration?

At first, the younger German girl’s reaction really shocked me. I simply wouldn’t have expected an 18 or 19 year old girl from an open-minded and tolerant country like Germany to be so uninformed about politicaldemonstrations like the Gay Parade, considering the recognition of homosexuality in her own society. The question is: can you blame her for her ignorance? If she has never been to a Gay Parade before because she hasn’t been interested in them as she is hetero, where should she get important background information about things like the Stonewall Riots in 1969, in order to understand the phenomenon of the Gay Parade? In school, one is not informed about it (at least I wasn't and I went to school in Germany!), though discrimination against homosexuality is still a focal point in society and the Iranian boy is unfortunately just


Photo: Rosanna Sibora/ www.youthmedia.eu
How much do you know about the gay parade?

one example among thousands and millions of others. However, if you have a closer look at the spectators of the Gay Parade, you can indentify many curious people who are only there to stare at the costumes and the naked bodies of the Gay Parade participants. I doubt that these people know more about the Gay Parade than the younger German girl does – I even think that the contrary is the case.

On the other hand, if I try to see this issue from a completely different perspective, I really start doubting about the Gay Parade “efficacy”: I must agree that the majority of the Gay Parade participants are real eye catchers with their costumes and their behaviour, so that I can understand why people would come along just to stare at them. Does the event really fulfil the role of a political demonstration if its political importance isn’t obvious to people who aren’t familiar with the topic at all? Or, to express it in a more provocative way: does a “carnival” work as a political demonstration?

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